Canada will end air strikes targeting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria and bring home its six fighter jets on February 22, the government announced Monday, going against public opinion.
In their place, Ottawa will triple the number of special forces training Kurdish militia in northern Iraq to about 210, while a handful of surveillance and refueling aircraft will continue to play roles in the US-led coalition, Defense Minister Hargit Sajjan told a joint news conference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and senior officials.
As well, the Canadian government will provide about Can$1 billion (US$718 million) in development and humanitarian aid over three years for the Mideast region, officials said.
Trudeau had pledged during legislative elections last year to end the airstrikes.
"We know Canada is stronger, much stronger, than the threat posed by a murderous gang of thugs who are terrorizing some of the most vulnerable people on Earth," Trudeau said Monday.
"Call us old-fashioned, but we think that we ought to avoid doing precisely what our enemies want us to do. They want us to elevate them, to give in to fear, to indulge in hatred, to eye one another with suspicion and to take leave of our faculties.
"The lethal enemy of barbarism isn't hatred, it's reason. And the people terrorized by ISIL every day don't need our vengeance, they need our help."
Some two-thirds of Canadians polled, however, support the bombing mission or want it to be expanded.